When Homer was in Paris in 1866, he was interested in the Barbizon painters’ dignified depiction of laborers. Find out about the Barbizon painters.
Does Homer paint the Girl with Pitchfork with dignity and strength? How so? Why? Does Homer have a message in this painting regarding the female farm worker?
Analyze how Homer chose to depict the Girl with Pitchfork. Study the picture’s long vertical format, how Homer filled the space, the figure’s stance and expression. What is the result?
How does Homer’s Girl with Pitchfork reflect American Realism at this time? Compare Homer’s work to Eakin’s Amelia van Buren.
Write a short story from the point of view of the Girl with Pitchfork. What is she thinking and feeling as she stands with her pitchfork, looking off into the distance? What might the pitchfork symbolize? To create setting, look for clues about the geography such as the grainstacks and windswept quality of the girl’s skirt. Where might this scene have taken place?
Read excerpts from Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. Create a chart of similarities and differences between Homer’s realism in Girl with Pitchfork and Whitman’s realistic portrayals.
Looking at the timeline, consider that Homer painted Girl with Pitchfork in 1867, following the end of Civil War. Homer had been a journalist illustrator during the Civil War. Explore the contrasts between war illustration and this depiction of the female farm worker.
Place Girl with Pitchfork in a historical context. What was the relationship between agrarian labor and the new labor of the industrial revolution? Research images of traditional farm labor in the 1850s and 60s. Was it realistic or romanticized? How so? What clues does Homer give in Girl with Pitchfork that reveal his point of view?